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May 28, 2017

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Video of alleged executions by Syrian rebels likely war crimes evidence: UN

GENEVA -- A video showing what appears to be rebels executing Syrian soldiers most probably reveals "war crimes" that could be used as evidence to bring the perpetrators to justice, the U.N. human rights body said Friday.

"It is very likely that this was a war crime, another one," Rupert Colville, spokesman for U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, told reporters in Geneva.

He was reacting to a video posted on YouTube of what appeared to be Syrian rebels beating around 10 injured soldiers before lining them up on the ground and executing them with automatic rifles.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday that rebels had killed 28 soldiers during attacks on three army checkpoints.

Colville said he and his colleagues had only just seen the video and that it was difficult to verify who was involved.

"Like other videos of this sort, it is difficult to verify immediately ... It will be examined carefully," he said.

At first glance, he said, it appeared that "these were soldiers who were no longer combatants and therefore, at this point, it looks very like a war crime."

In July 2012, the International Committee of the Red Cross defined the Syrian conflict as a civil war, meaning the Geneva Convention on the treatment of victims of war applies.

In concrete terms, this means that executing a soldier not in combat, with no means to protect himself, is considered a war crime.

"Once again, we call on all parties to the conflict in Syria to respect international human rights law," Colville said.

He stressed though that the perpetrators of such atrocities should be under no illusion they could get away with their crimes.

"Accountability will follow," he said, adding that the video could well be used as "evidence" in legal proceedings.

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